Then I read this thread by Pastor Dan, and I saw the light! (Praise the Lord, I saw the light!) No, seriously, I posted a comment, and many things made sense (or started to make sense, which is usually good enough for me). Just started rambling, and I ended up saying something like this (the quoted bit is from Pastor Dan):
You may not believe that this is a political strategy, but I can assure you that it is. We can wring our hands all we like about creeps like Jerry LaHaye, John Hagee, George W. Bush and all their hoodlum friends, but until we can offer some kind of meaningful alternative, I have to wonder - have we provided a meaningful alternative?One thing apocalyptic has in common with the teachings of Christ in general, is taking the material world seriously.
Comfortable middle-class Xians don't need apocalyptic literature because life is just dandy, and promises to be better in the sweet bye and bye. If others are suffering, we (us middle-class Xians) are sweetly oblivious to it, or figure God will reward them in the after life (or, more darkly, that they deserve it. Everybody likes karma because it seems to work so well for them!) This world, in other words, is passing away, but since we find it a comfortable place, we don't mind waiting a while for the passing, and we know what comes next will be even better!
So we slip into a pseudo-neo-platonism and slide on by, taking the world just seriously enough to wring a good life out of it, but primarily thinking that is due to our own efforts and, incidentally, the blessings of God (which, of course, we richly deserve, because we work so hard!)
Apocalyptic takes the world as it is, warts and all, and imagines it remade. Not in some mystical after-life that is (literally) unimaginable (quick: name one concrete thing said in the NT about Heaven, aside from Lazarus resting in the bosom of Abraham. Is there room there for the rest of us?), but in the here and now. God permeates this world, and God is a God of justice (more truly the message of Deuteronomy than "dot the 'i's,' cross the 't's,' and all will be well with you!"). And that justice will take material (not spiritual) form, and be seen here and now (not even in the judgment of the sheep and the goats, but in this world, and in this life).
It's heady stuff, and it survives as a part of the tradition precisely because, like Job or Ecclesiastes, it is another source of wisdom we should never lose. It is a wisdom that, in fact, we too often deny. It is part and parcel of the wisdom of the incarnation.
And it is a very meaningful alternative. If we can't offer something just as concrete, what do we have to offer at all?
God is for real, man; because God is material. Gee, maybe the Mad Priest is right (I do wish he'd link all those posts together; it would make it so much easier!). Or maybe he's just given me a springboard into some useful thinking about the Absolute Paradox, and why it is paradoxical, and why it is absolute.